Sunday, November 18, 2007

A discussion of GLBT bookstores closing

Quote of the week: "When the author finishes a book he has told the reader all about himself, though happily in a code that few can read. You cannot write well and shield your innermost self from scrutiny. Your writing -- good writing -- is all about your innermost self." – Victor Banis

The following information was brought to my attention through an online writers group that I belong to, and it was interesting enough that I wanted to pass on the key discussion points.

Word on the street is that Crossroads Market, the LGBT bookstore, in Dallas is closing. Unfortunately, this is a trend that has been going on for some time and still continues. Not so long ago there were 300 gay and lesbian-owned bookstores in the country -- today there are fewer than 75. The reasons are easy to understand -- Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon all sell gay and lesbian books at discounts they can obtain because of their volume buying power, whereas in the seventies and eighties only a few mainstream bookstores sold gay oriented books. Add this to the skyrocketing rents that brick and mortar bookstores are facing today, and the independent bookstores are being screwed from both ends.

The fact that the big names are finally selling gay books might seem like good news, both to gay authors and readers, but there is also a down side. These big corporations are not interested in promoting gay authors like the independents are. It is very difficult to arrange book signings and readings, and browsing through Borders is definitely not the same experience as browsing at GLBT stores for gay readers.

Many of us old-timers remember that the first place we went after coming out was to an LGBT bookstore, stores like Outwrite in Atlanta, Obelisk in San Diego, and A Different Light in LA and the Castro. It is up to the gay community to keep these places alive and flourishing by frequenting these store and buy merchandise. So what if it's $1.39 cheaper at the mall or easier online? If we allow the big chains and Amazon to gobble up all the independent GLBT bookstores, then we will have lost something valuable to our community, and something we probably will not be able to bring back.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A short story written 15 years ago.

Saying of the week: "In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the niche of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line." -- Henry David Thoreau

The following short story I wrote fifteen years ago, back when people were still making quilts for people dying of AIDS. Hope you enjoy this short read.

An Empty Room

I move as if in a dream, but each sharp detail, combined with the pulse beating at my temple, makes it all too utterly real. The house is still, the only sound are my heels marking time with a tap, tap, tap on hardwood floors. Once again I walk down the long, somber hallway and stop before the solid wood door, knock softly, then hold my breath as I lean forward, listening. How silly. Turning the brass knob and pushing forward, I am announced by creaking hinges and greeted by a cold draft that rushes up my bare legs. No wonder. The window on the far wall stands half open, and its white curtains flutter into the yard as a breeze flows through and out of the house. Crossing the floor, I close the window; but not before the room has lost its warmth. I need to be more careful with winter coming on.
Outside, glossy yellow and fiery red leaves swirl around the yard in a kaleidoscopic chaos. The wind's cold fingers press against the glass, as if to gauge its strength. The old tire swinging from the lowest branch of the gnarled oak that veils the yard has a hypnotic effect. It drags me back to a time of summery joy and I hear his fearless voice, 'Higher, push me higher'.
Pulling away from the window, I break the trance. The room is shrouded in shadows, the only light an amber stream from the setting sun flowing though the glass panes. I don't turn on the lights; the dim will do.
Everything is neat and clean and never changing, like a museum showcase. The single bed, the dresser, the rocking chair, the full length mirror hanging on the door and the drab circle of home-spun rug are all old and rundown but still serviceable. Things - hard, solid objects - can be counted on.
Stepping to the rocker at the foot of the bed, I stoop to pick up the brightly colored quilt and my sewing basket lying on the hard varnished seat, before easing my body into its place. The chair groans with the burden of my weight and I begin to rock.
Spreading the quilt open across my lap, I note the progress I've made over the past weeks. I shake my head from side to side as I pick up the needle and thread and continue working on the 'i' in David.
Working with painfully slow, deliberate movements, my fingers pass the needle from one side of the fabric to the other. Each crossing fills in the pattern and sparks my memory. I struggle with unwanted images, keeping my thoughts in a stubborn grip, here and now.
My eyes meander over the room's faded blue walls. I had suggested wallpaper with yellow daisies. What a mistake that would have been. Sky blue was right. Like lying on your back in tall summer grass and looking directly up into lustrous, sapphire heavens. A perfect reflection of his soul.
Familiar sports paraphernalia hangs on the wall, including a Notre Dame pennant under an autographed poster of a smiling Joe Montana. Football. On top of the dresser in the corner, next to the blimp shaped ball and scarred helmet, his varsity class picture is encased in a heavy wooden frame. Strange that he loved both football and ballet. Rachmaninoff and Guns And Roses, for that matter.
A flash of memory makes me chuckle. I almost forgot. Years after college, he finally confessed what it was about football that he loved most; all the training and punishment were worth it when, after the games, he would shower with Joe. My tongue makes a clucking sound, which echoes in the silence of the room.
My hands move over the brightly patterned quilt to the ballet slippers sewn into the cloth, next to a figure dancing on cotton clouds. Perhaps I should also sew his jersey number into the lower corner, and a tight-end dashing across the goal line. Yes, that would be lovely. First I must finish the 'id'.
But not today. The light is now too dim. Also, the room has warmed and with the heat comes the faint, sour smell of decay. I lay the quilt aside for another day and rise to my feet. The chair continues rocking as I walk to the window, open it a crack, then cross the room once again to leave. I reach for the knob, but the mirror hanging on the door stops my hand in midair. My reflection stares at me. Its gray-framed face has dark patches under red eyes -- like the jet black smudge that football players wear to keep the sun's glare from shining in their eyes.